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JAN / FEB 2014 EDITION

A from Note the editor
Fairview Heights Campus
Sunday - 8:30am, 10:30am, 6:00pm Saturday - 5:00pm

“You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely.” Psalm 139:1-4 NIV
What a joy to know that the Creator of the universe knows everything about me, and loves me still. God knows and counts my days; He has my life written on the pages of His scrolls. Knowing this gives me peace about facing another year of uncertainty. The lyrics from the song Already There by Casting Crowns express my heart cry:
From where I’m standing Lord it’s so hard for me to see Where this is going And where You’re leading me I wish I knew how All my fears and all my questions Are gonna play out In a world I can’t control Oh, oh When I’m lost in the mystery To You my future is a memory Cause You’re already there You’re already there Standing at the end of my life Waiting on the other side And You’re already there You’re already there Oh, oh, oh, oh From where You’re standing Lord, You see a grand design That You imagined When You breathed me into life And all the chaos Comes together in Your hands Like a masterpiece Of Your picture perfect plan When I’m lost in the mystery To You my future is a memory Cause You’re already there

Collinsville / Maryville Campus
Sunday - 10:00am Sunday - 10:00am

Millstadt Campus

From January to December, 2014 has been planned by God; He is already there! Happy New Year,

Contents

3 - Pull The Switch 4 - Forgiveness In An Unforgiving.. 5 - You Are Here 6 - Choosing To Forgive 7 - Pack Light 8 - Shake It Off 9 - Getting To Know You 10 - A Frest Start... 11 - I Need Pure Focus 12 - Precious Freedom 13 - New Year, New Focus 15 - God At Work

Donna Harrison
Editor
donnaharrison@mychristchurch.com

Senior Pastor: Rev. Shane Bishop Associate Pastor: Rev. Troy Benton Editor: Donna Harrison Proof Reader: Barbara Germany Design: Justin Aymer Cover Photo: Mike Creagh
For a complete listing of the Christ Curch Staff and to learn more about Christ Church please visit: www.mychristchurch.com

The Flame Online: Get The Flame Magazine online. Free pdf downloads. Email reminders of new editions. Visit www.mychristchurch.com/theflame. Mission Of The Flame: Be inspirational through biblical articles and devotions. Be informative in the announcement of future events that connect people in ministry. Questions about the Flame? Contact Donna Harrison at: donnaharrison@mychristchurch.com
The Flame Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine published by Christ Church. ©2013, Christ Church. All rights reserved.

Pull The Switch
By Rev. Shane Bishop, Senior Pastor

hen I was in high school, the one variable factor of travel in DuQuoin was trains. Trains kept you out of town, pinned you in town, kept you from leaving town and kept you from getting from the east side of town to the west side of town. It was equally possible in those days to be stopped by three trains one time or to be stopped by one train three times while traveling through a town of 7,000. These weren’t Amtrak; these were coal trains (one hundred cars long), creeping, rumbling, complaining and often grinding to a stop right in the middle of the intersection you were trying to cross. Trains made you late for work, late for meetings, late for school, late for church, late for lunch and had to be figured into all plans when time was involved. Things were either five minutes away or twenty-five minutes away but nothing was in-between. A few years ago they built an overpass on highway 51, but I’ll bet the old timers in town still sit motionless for twenty minutes every day at the old intersections because they are just used to it. In DuQuoin, just because a train passed by didn’t mean it was

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gone; it could easily stop before the gates went back up, back through the intersection and pass by again. It was like watching the worst movie you ever saw twice, but the second time around was backwards. I used to wonder if there were towns where trains just simply rumbled through; if there were, DuQuoin wasn’t one of them. Conversely, just because a train was coming your way didn’t necessarily mean it was going to stop you, sometimes they suddenly took off in another direction. Just outside of town, in the greater St. John’s/Hardscrabble region there is a Y in the track. If the switch is left alone, the train will keep going north and south, but if the switch is thrown, the rails will shift and the train will head east or west. My grandpa Max Burton was an Illinois Central man. One guy like grandpa would pull the switch and determine if a train ended up in Chicago or Louisville by the end of the day. It’s good to know that if you need to go a new direction in 2014, you can always pull the switch! “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Rev. Shane Bishop, Senior Pastor facebook.com/revshane @RevShaneBishop

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Forgiveness In An Unforgiving World
By Dave Merrill
here is truth revealed throughout Scripture that we live in a fallen and unforgiving world. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We will be betrayed, we will be hurt, we will suffer, and we will be tempted to seek revenge against our neighbor who sins against us. But how does God call us to demonstrate forgiveness to those who have wounded us? I certainly cannot speak for all Christians, but I’ll bet most of us have the LORD’s Prayer pretty much committed to memory. This familiar model of how to pray can be found in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 9-13 (NIV).

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Frankly, to me, this is a fearful and convicting passage of Scripture. We are petitioning God through our prayers and asking Him to forgive us our trespasses (our sins or debts) in the same way we forgive others. In essence we’re saying, “God, I’m asking you to please treat me like I treat those who sin against me.” God is holding a mirror up and commands that we understand something about how we treat our neighbors. We are called to love our neighbors and forgive them; that’s how God is – He loves us and forgives us. Now we’re actually praying that God would open our eyes to understand how we really treat others and petitioning Him to treat us the same way. The little word “as” in this model prayer had me fooled. For too many years I believed the “as” in Scripture meant that God would forgive my trespasses at the same time I was called to forgive the trespasses of my neighbors against me. It was a prayer that relieved me of responsibility to behave differently, but nudged me in the right direction. I have come to realize the “as” we use in the LORD’s Prayer is not about forgiveness at the same time, but in the same way! Like most of Scripture, we learn these things by understanding the breadth and depth of God’s Word more completely. Once we pray, “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory for ever and ever. Amen” we consider the prayer complete. (Note: The Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1928 adds this last phrase, not Scripture.) I would encourage you to go back into God’s Word and look at the next verses of Jesus’s instructions (Matthew 6:14-15): “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Christian brothers and sisters, it seems clear to me we should be in the business of forgiveness when others sin against us if we hold any expectation to receive forgiveness from the Father. Remember, this is not a precondition of our salvation that somehow depends upon our actions. Jesus’s atoning sacrifice on the cross did that for us. Rather, this is instruction from Jesus regarding our expectations of answered prayer in this world based on our behavior. Treat me like I treat others, LORD. Amen.

“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
I want to zoom in on the phrase “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Remember, we’re in the gospel and this is Jesus speaking. He is specifically giving instruction about how we should pray to the Father. I know that in the Methodist Anglican tradition we substitute the word trespasses for debts and “those who trespass against us” for “our debtors.” The Greek word for debtor (or trespasser) in this passage is opheilēma and it means, “that which is owed or is justly or legally due, as a debt, a trespass against God, or a sin.” Some practicing ecumenical Christians substitute the phrase “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Whether you consider yourself to be a sinner, a trespasser, or a debtor is not important. What is important rests in what Jesus is expressing in this phrase.

Dave Merrill facebook.com/davemerrill819

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y wife and I enjoying traveling at least once a year, often to visit relatives but sometimes to have some quiet time to ourselves. After we get settled in, usually after the first day or so, my wife looks for the closest mall to waste away a few hours and maybe pick up a few locally branded gifts to bring back home. Since we are not familiar with the area, or what stores this mall may have, we both set our sights on finding the illuminated directory display with an outline map so we can plan our route. Often simply a dot or small arrow, almost every map has this tiny marker titled “You are here” to identify where you stand relative to this large property. Almost like a personal GPS, popular before many knew what GPS actually was, these backlit displays would bring you into focus for just a moment to take a breath and assess where you started from and where you were going next. The noise and distraction of other shoppers and overhead music silenced briefly as you figured out a plan. If only I had more of those simple moments when the decisions were so easy! I began to think about how different life might be if we were all handed a map first — a map that showed how to navigate toward or away from every pothole, every bruise, or every victory. Imagine the possibilities if I could know the road to avoid and see the reason why I continue to repeat the same mistakes. Certainly I have learned from some experiences, but others I could have done without. Without a map, I was unsure of my purpose and wasted a lot of time going the wrong direction. God gave me a map long ago, but I never understood what it was. I have always felt called to serve others, but I ignored it. I felt called to stand up for what’s right, but I would often join the crowd doing wrong. I felt called by God to do something, but focused more on who I wanted to be instead of taking a breath and being honest about who I am — who I was made to be. God gifted me with life, and I was throwing it away. I avoided the difficult path because I was unsure of my own abilities. I was afraid of the journey because I did not have a

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You Are Here
By Matt Rygelski
map. I knew the wrong decisions I made before, and I repeated those poor decisions time and time again because I was comfortable and familiar with that worn path. Even though the outcome would always lead me to a place I didn’t want to go, it was familiar territory. I thought I knew where I was, but I had no map to show me where I should be going. For years, I thought I was a religious person but I never actually read more than two consecutive pages in the Bible. When I finally took a moment to unplug from the noise and distraction of the world around me, it all came into focus. For thousands of years, people have struggled with these personal challenges so at least I was not alone in this experience. And yet, those who chose to seek Jesus found a peace that I can only hope to find. To trust in God to lead is difficult, but necessary. God knows the struggles I faced, the difficult decisions I made, the pain I caused others… but forgiveness is part of God’s unconditional love. He knows my weaknesses and yet still offers His patience and guidance. I asked for His forgiveness, but only after I realized that my stubbornness has interfered with the route He has planned for me. Just like GPS, God will recalculate my map and remind me to get back on the path ahead. By God’s gift of free will, I must choose to accept Him as my navigator and trust He will lead me in a new direction. The New Year brings new opportunity. It’s a new moment to take a breath and assess where you started from and where you are going next. Looking back over those childhood years, even in my darkest hours, I see now that God was always there beside me, encouraging me to come toward Him. I am ready to listen to that guidance now. I am here.
Matt Rygelski facebook.com/mrygelski

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Choosing To

FORGIVE
By Kelli Tobin
hether it is intentional or unintentional, most of us have been hurt by someone else’s words or actions. We feel the pain of rejection, insults, or condescending comments. How we feel is a real, normal response to sin in the world. Our response, however, is something we choose. We cannot change or predict what others will do to us, but we can choose our reaction. I don’t know about you, but my first reaction when hurt by someone is to seek revenge or pray that God seeks revenge for me. Why wouldn’t God see their injustice toward me and want to make things right on my behalf?! This train of thought does not get me far and I am left feeling rejected by God. It is hard to choose a positive attitude in these times, especially when it is a family member who hurts you. Recently, we experienced this, and my attitude was to be angry, vengeful, and mean-spirited. I did not deserve nor understand the hurtful actions toward my family. However, God spoke to me in my current attitude-state and changed my heart. I do not condone their behavior, but it is not my job to change that or seek revenge. Aren’t we all sinners and in need of grace every once in a while (or everyday)? I don’t deserve the grace God gives me each day, but He gives it freely. Let God do the judging. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you think what they did was right. It means you are allowing God to truly do His work. You are allowing Him to work through you, through the other person(s) and in the situation. And who else would you want working for the good of everyone? Odds are they may be hurt by someone or something else too. Forgiveness is a choice. Choose to forgive. Grant them grace as your Father offered it to you. He will make things right, and He will change your heart to be more like His.

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Kelli Tobin tobin.kel@gmail.com

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Pack Light
By Rev. Troy Benton, Associate Pastor

“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.”
Matthew 10:8-10, NIV

he thing I hate most about travel is packing! I’ve also discovered the most important part of preparing to travel is packing. Packing either gives me a great foundation for a successful trip, or increases the chances of disappointment. Packing equips me with the possessions I will need to do my work, enjoy the time away, and/or stay in comfort. Packing is important! This is a new year; it gives us an opportunity to make some big changes that can truly make our lives better. Every year we are offered many suggestions to improve. These suggestions come and go, often with little if any implementation and even less change by us. I think there are many reasons why we reject these suggestions, but I’ve got one to add: because these suggestions require us to do more. In a time when we are measured by how well we handle both the function and excellence of handling ‘more’, maybe God is asking us to reconsider this challenge. Jesus, at a critical time in the function of His work in providing salvation, made some critical determinations. Matthew chapters 9 and 10 give us insight into the mind of Christ. We learn Jesus was busy, focused, and will not be distracted by anything in accomplishing His task. These truths, when laid over ours, allow us to do what Jesus did. He in essence packed light! Jesus only engaged those necessary to accomplish the work He had been given. He refused to become overwhelmed, but instead remained on task. Jesus allowed others to do what they do best. Jesus, when it was time (and not a moment too soon or too late), departed the place where there was no more purpose for Him to reside. Jesus, when leaving, only took what was necessary to accomplish His assignment. This kind of packing requires real tough work. The work Jesus does in the encounter includes: introspection (honest evaluation of one’s self); dependence on God through relationship frequently renewed in prayer-worship-fasting-fellowship; and continual reflection on His purpose.

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Question: Benefit:

Do you do these things?

Opportunity: Why not start today?
You will have laser focus like Jesus, and by faith achieve the task(s) God has designed for you to complete. Just like the difficult work of preparing when we travel, this kind of packing light is not easy. In the words of a commercial, “decisions, decisions, decisions”! To pack light will bless you, but it will call you to only maintain that which has purpose for you; to relate to only those who you have the time-financial-social capacity to handle. You can do your own inventory of this work. If/when you do, know you will have to let many things and most assuredly, some people in your life go! There are huge blessings often not told as a result of packing light. One blessing is this: Your life will be much easier to handle and carry! Although Jesus faced a horrific death, even the most violent hands-on act in history was something Jesus could handle, because He released those things not important to the work (bitterness, anger, relational ties, etc.). Jesus had only death to deal with, and as a result, was able to finish the work in victory! As you begin to pack or repack for the life God has for you, know I am praying for you. Pray for me! Together, if we pack light for the journey we are called to take for Jesus, we will reach the goal of the task we have been called to meet.
Rev. Troy Benton, Associate Pastor facebook.com/tmbenton @revtroy

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Shake It Off
By Lindsay Tallman
rowing up, I played sports year round for as long as I can remember. When one season would end, the next would begin that very next week. Each season came with its own set of challenges. While some sports were fun and seemed effortless, others required me to develop a skill set that didn’t come naturally. I learned a lot from the teamwork and mental focus that comes with playing. More than anything, I learned my mental game was often more important than my physical skills on the court. When things would start going south, it was easy to give over to mental defeat long before the scoreboard showed it. Whenever that would happen, I remember my dad cheering from the bleachers, “Come on, keep your head in the game and shake it off!” In 2013, God invited me on an uphill journey that would test every ounce of faith that I have. I came out strong across the starting line in January, but by July I had hit the proverbial wall. Suddenly, I was no longer sure I could make it to the finish line. I began to lose the spring in my step, started making foolish errors, and was losing my ability to see the big picture. And with each challenge that I failed to overcome perfectly, I began to feel mentally defeated. I was broken, beat up, and convinced victory wasn’t coming because I couldn’t see it. Maybe you’ve been there too. Maybe God has called you to something and no amount of practice could have prepared you for the realities of the game. You may be feeling lost or abandoned, despite the fact that you know you are doing God’s will. God never promised us that doing His stuff would be easy. Most of the time, I’ve found that getting God’s work done is really hard. Some seasons of struggle have to be endured so that He can sharpen our skill sets, but we can add to the duration and pain by losing our mental game. If you’re walking through a hard season and feeling defeated, Paul has some words of encouragement in Philippians that can help us make a fresh start:

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2. Listen to your coach.

Philippians 2:13 says, “For God who is at work within you, helping you want to obey Him, and then helping you do what He wants.” God would not call us to something and fail to equip us. Often when the going gets tough, we want to run away. But God wants to help us obey Him so that His desires become our desires. He knows what is best for us and we must submit and let Him do His work in us.

3. Practice teamwork.

Philippians 2:14 says, “In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.” Ever notice how when a team starts losing, they immediately begin the blame game? See challenges as an opportunity to reach out to fellow Christians or to be vulnerable and ask for help. Choosing to praise God in the trying times is a powerful witness to the world.

4. Shake it off.

Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes it’s hardest to forgive ourselves. Choosing to forgive ourselves doesn’t mean excusing our failures. It means getting up and trying again. Shaking it off is the key to forgetting the mistakes of the past and choosing to move forward despite those mistakes in order to win. They say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Indeed it is. If we’re still breathing, God’s not finished with us yet. The clock is still ticking and the band plays on. And somewhere in the midst of all that noise there is a single still, small voice in the crowd cheering just for you. As a brand new year rolls me into a new season, I know what my loving, Heavenly Father is saying, “Come on, keep your head in the game and shake it off!”

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” Nothing would please the enemy more than to see God’s children fail at something they’ve been called to do for the kingdom. When you’re discouraged, remember that God will never give up on you. He will finish what He starts. Stay mentally focused on a win.

1. Keep your head in the game.

Lindsay Tallman www.lindsayntallman.com

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Getting To Know YOU
Name: Mistie Denny Job Title: Director of Early Childhood Ministries Job Description: The Director of Early Childhood Ministries
is responsible for and oversees programming, education, policies and procedures for children ages birth through kindergarten.

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?

How many times did you move as a child?

I would want to live on the coast of Italy. I have always wanted to go there!

None – I grew up in the house that my mom grew up in and my grandfather built. I didn’t leave home until I graduated high school. Then I made up for it by moving to TN!

What super power would you most like to have, and why?
My kids ask me this all the time! I say super speed so I can get everything done that needs to be done and still have time to relax.

Name your most favorite time of the year. What are your hobbies?

Fall! I love the weather and the food and the events! I like photography and sewing. I also like scrapbooking.

How did you meet your spouse?

What were you like when you were a kid?

We went to college together. I actually saw him the first day I moved in to my dorm. I thought what a hottie! I met him about a week later when I went rollerblading with some friends.

I had a huge imagination. There was nothing we could not do or invent. Once, when our town flooded, my brother and I decided we could float in a cardboard boat and use plastic bowling pins as paddles! We couldn’t understand why my mom said no!

What advice do you have for the young people at church?

Would you rather visit the zoo or tour a museum?

1) Learn who you are in Christ; 2) don’t waste time trying to be like the world; and 3) find a mentor.

Both, but if I had to choose I would say the zoo. Animals are just so fun to watch!

Do you like to cook?

Would your spouse say you are funny or serious?
Probably serious, but that is just because he doesn’t get my jokes!

Yes, now that I learned how. I have some pretty funny stories about that! I could have a show about how to avoid cooking disasters – I’ve had so many!

What ice cream flavor would you invent?

Have you ever met a famous person?

Yes! My husband and I are friends with Phil Stacey; we went to college together!

What is your goal in life?

I actually claim to have invented the Steak and Shake side-byside milkshakes. I was very picky about ordering and started asking for those before they were a thing. Then, one day, they just appeared on the menu! Hmmmm… coincidence? I think not!

My goals are: 1) to be a good mom and a good wife; 2) to teach my children about the God who loves them; 3) to show others the love of Christ; and 4) to have fun!

Have you ever come face to face with a dangerous animal?

Which do you prefer, sunrises or sunsets?
Sunsets – I can relax and enjoy them more.

When I was little I found a raccoon stuck in a trash can. My grandpa had to get it out; and it was not happy! My brother and I thought it was so cool that we spent the rest of the day looking in trash cans for trapped raccoons! 9

A Fresh Start...
A New Beginning
By Debby Creagh

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-10 NIV

o these words describe your desire in a particular area of your life? They have for me. I have searched for a solution to what I consider my weight problem for years. I particularly don’t like my “jelly roll” around the middle. Some of you are thinking, “What is she talking about?” Sorry to get so personal, but REALLY, we all have areas that we don’t like about ourselves: physical, emotional, spiritual, intelligence, experiences, and so on. I have prayed, dieted, tried self-help things, exercise, etc. Not until recently, through a friend, did I hear about a book called The Wheat Belly. Written by a physician, it described me to a “T.” Literally, I said to God, “OK, one last time, I will try.” It’s been HARD to change the way I eat, what I eat, when I eat, and even how I think about food. However, to my surprise, the weight is actually slowly coming off, and my shape is changing. A new beginning sometimes takes just the right information. Along with prayer and encouragement! We often hear these words of hope about a “fresh start or new beginning” when people are trying something new to improve their lives, to change old habits, or leave the past behind. When we depend on our own strength to accomplish a change by ourselves, it often leads to reverting to what has been comfortable in the past. Psychologists tell us that our coping mechanisms (like eating any donut that wanders by) can be some of the hardest things to alter. Our hope as believers is that we know that ALL things are possible with God. Scripture tells us we are to become more and more like Christ. This means giving all that we are, just as we are, to God and allowing Him to transform us. Romans 12:1-2. The most difficult area? Our minds. We take in information, analyze, rationalize, sort, and conclude before we act, do, feel, believe… or change. It can take extra help for us to manage the modification we need to make in our lives. We may need a counselor, a trainer, a friend, a spouse, a health professional, a life coach, or a specialist in the area you need to change. What gets in the way of our getting that help? For some of us, it’s our pride – thinking we can handle it on our own. Sometimes the thought of what needs to change or how to start can be overwhelming, so we don’t. Not enough knowledge or expertise can be another reason not to change. The question is, do we really want that fresh start or new beginning?

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How do we recognize there is something in our life that needs a new beginning?
1. We hear God specifically say to us in His Word or in our prayers that He wants us to align our lives with His design for us personally. That’s right, you only and not comparing yourself with anyone else! 2. People we trust have told us there is an area of concern in our lives. 3. We become aware through experts or another person’s experience that we need to change.

What options are there once we have the information?
1. Ignore it? = No change (BLAH) 2. “Pull me up by my bootstraps and do it myself.” What a lonely choice! Without support the change often reverts to previous behavior. (Like changing my food choices.) 3. Ask God to direct me to the path He wants me to take. This enlists the full power of the One who created us, and sets our minds to be open to solution and change. 4. Gain knowledge: internet search, read books or articles, ask an expert. Look for answers with an ear to the Holy Spirit saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” 5. Get help and/or support: experts, family, friends, an accountability partner, or a mentor. 6. Sustain the change with ongoing learning and support. The first step is often the hardest one. Once we start, though, we gain momentum and see progress which is really encouraging. The battle begins in our minds in recognizing the problem, but God wants us to accomplish the best life that He has designed for us. Take a deep breath, pray, then take that first step, and let the adventure begin!
Debby Creagh, Parish Nurse debbycreagh@mychristchurch.com

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I Need Pure
By Michael Gary Harrison

s we enter this wonderful New Year with hearts filled with hope and promise, we are also eager to leave behind that which brings turmoil and disorder. This poem titled I Need Pure Focus, comes from my second book Heart Spring. It expresses the cry of my heart for a refreshing touch from the only source of true peace; our Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can grasp.

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O Father My Lord Touch my distracted heart Center my focus and Anchor my thoughts Lead me with Your loving hand… O Father My Lord Lift me to You This world yields distraction I need to be pure Lead me with Your loving hand…

Michael Gary Harrison, Author of A Spark In Darkness facebook.com/asparkindarkness

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Precious Freedom
orgiveness in the life of a human being is one of the most profoundly necessary acts that we accomplish. It goes against every fiber of our being to extend grace and forgiveness to others. We want revenge. We aspire to see someone hurt for the injustices done to us. A spouse betrays us, a child doesn’t meet our expectations, our boss never recognizes our hard work, and a friend turns their back on us. The list can be from simple annoyances to utter devastation. I was curious to see what effects unforgiveness had on our physical and mental well-being. Here are a few of my findings from studies completed by researchers such as the Mayo Clinic: we run the risk of bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship, cynicism as a way of life, depression, potential for drug and alcohol abuse, insomnia, panic attacks, heart disease, high blood pressure, interference with your body’s hormonal and immune systems, muscle tightness, impaired digestion and this is not the exhaustive list. Just in the physical and mental realm, not to mention the damage to our spiritual life, we are on a very slippery slope to think we can hold on to those offenses that cause unforgiveness and not pay a costly price. I have had many “opportunities” to forgive in my life. Alcoholism runs deep in my family and presented much distress, pain and even death. My parents divorced when I was young. I have been abused in every way, cheated, betrayed, lost friends through misunderstanding and more. It all sounds like a bad country song but it has been my reality and the very things that tried to take my life actually drove me to the One that gives life! I realized something, though, after counseling, prayer, tears and years of walking with Jesus. I came to the conclusion that every time I entertained a situation where I was wounded, I was looking for a different outcome. The problem with that kind of thinking is the outcome of the particular situation that had happened would never change. I would come back to my present reality with no resolve and more bitterness. Unforgiveness causes us to walk away from situations each time we visit them with a deeper sense of loss and self-pity. Bitterness has a hunger that is never satisfied and has a relentless pursuit of regret, anger and shame. I grew up at 1117 N. Sparks Street, Burbank, California. My family is no longer there and neither are the painful things that happened. The only reason to revisit a situation is, with Jesus helping me, to forgive and realize that He took on all that sorrow

By Carrie Gaxiola

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and pain, and it belongs to Him. “He bore our sin and shame” the book of Isaiah tells us. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man be in Christ He is a new creature. Behold, old things are passed away, all things have become new!” The door is closed to that house and many other circumstances in my life. Forgiving has not been an easy journey but as a believer in Jesus Christ, if I am to heal and be well, if you are to heal and be well, then we must learn to look at a memory or a current situation through the mercy that Christ has given us. Forgiveness is a supernatural act but a necessary one for health in every way. We must say no to continually entertaining that which we cannot change either past or present and say yes to the Holy Spirit’s comfort and the transforming power of God to change us! I love this short story in Acts 9 of a man named Aeneas. He was sick, paralyzed and in bed for 8 long years. ‘Then along comes Peter, full of the Holy Spirit and says, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you! Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately.’ I believe his body was healed completely, but what I love most is that he got out of his bed immediately! He left the thing that held him captive for 8 years! How many of us have been given eternal life through Jesus, our hearts free from our ugly sins, yet we sit in the bed captive to unforgiveness? What did the lame man do? He followed what Peter said immediately! I believe God has a precious freedom for each one of us. It is time to close the door to the ravages of Satan through unforgiveness and begin to release all those that have wounded us, circumstances that have disappointed us, dreams that have died. Whatever it takes…saturation in the Scriptures, wise and solid counseling, time at the altar to be free, do it! Our example is Jesus Christ. He forgave when none of us deserved anything but death and separation from God. He is everything we need to eliminate that list of unforgiveness and begin a beautiful story of freedom! I leave you with this to ponder from Ephesians 4:31, 32. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Father, help us all to be healed, whole and free to do your work through the beautiful act of forgiveness with Jesus as our example. Amen

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Carrie Gaxiola facebook.com/carrie.bushgaxiola

New Year, New Focus
By Matt Denny
I spent a little time in a bookstore this weekend and made 2 observations: 1) Self-help books are popular. 2) Books that tell you something is wrong with you are not. This unscientific survey led me to a conclusion: People already know they have hang-ups and issues. What they are looking for is help. I think too often the church is perceived as a moral army out to defeat evil people. We have probably done enough to earn this reputation and would do well to shed it. I am reminded of the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:12, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” As the body of Christ we are in a constant battle, but our opponents are not other people. The church has put considerable time and energy into pointing out all of the places society has failed to follow God. I think this is damaging for two reasons. One, we are holding society to a standard they have not submitted to. This stance makes it difficult for a non-believer to visit a church. There is a great fear of not “fitting in.” Paul said, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.” (1 Corinthians 5:12) Secondly, I fear we are beating down people who already know they need help. It is one of my most strongly held convictions that lost people know they are missing something. They all experience a sense of emptiness or incompleteness. The millions of self-help books sold each year bear witness to this. We, as the body of Christ, can’t be seen as the opponent of those seeking help. In the next year and beyond, it is my desire to see the church focus on what Paul called “the ministry of reconciliation.” He wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” The church must hold itself to God’s standards, but the mission He gave us was to tell the world, “You have lived in rebellion against God . . . but He loves you. You are special to Him; He paid a dear price for you. He wants you to come home!” If the only thing people hear from the church is condemnation, they will never believe God is for them. Reverend Shane likes to say that Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, marked the beginning of the church. That is wholly true, but I think the story goes even deeper than that. Pentecost was a literal undoing of the events at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and is a beautiful symbol of God’s intent for the church. At Babel, all of humanity was united in language and purpose in rebellion against God. To save us from ourselves, God confused the languages of the people and caused that union to fracture. The human race remained in that condition for thousands of years: fractured, divided, and in rebellion against God. At Pentecost, God reversed that condition. What had been fractured, God re-membered. What had been divided, God unified. What had been working earnestly against God was put to work for Him. And this newly created body was given the mission of bringing the rest of the fractured, dis-membered world back in to union with their Creator. We are not called to fight those outside of the body of Christ. We are called to invite them in. It is my hope and prayer the church rediscovers this vital aspect of her mission in the years to come!

Matt Denny facebook.com/mattmistie.denny matthewdenny@mychristchurch.com

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100,000 Hours

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The people of Christ Church have committed to serve our community with 100,000 hours of service.

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